Heslington East Community Archaeology Project

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Monday 16th May 2011

Walking on to site this morning was not a great feeling, firstly it was a Monday morning and secondly it was cold, wet and very windy. But alas, day 11 had started and the Heslington East team were ready to commence excavation… sort of anyway. This morning consisted of moving trenches for me, as my services of drawing were no longer needed in my own trench (trench A) and I was sent over to trench B to help with their drawings. I was asked to draw context number: 1510 (i.e., Tom Wilkinson’s section) because the team needed to crack on with digging the area and needed all of the hands they could get and mine, unfortunately, were unable to do the actual hands on work, so I was assigned the task of drawing. When I asked what I was actually drawing James answered with ‘it’s another linear’, an answer that I should have been able to guess really as that’s all that seems to be found at the moment! Drawing may have seemed like the easy option at the time but it was most definitely not. With a combination of wind and sand I was literally sand blasted while trying to draw a profile and plan drawing of the section. Plus, the masking tape decided that today would be a good day to sop being...

1 comment | 17th May 2011, 07:23:13 | Posted by Cath Neal | Blog

Friday 13th May 2011

For the greater part of the past two weeks, our group has been excavating a
series of puzzling linear ditches which run north to south down the gentle
slope of the York Moraine. While some appear to be natural, or perhaps the
unintentional result of modern deep-ploughing practices, others definitely
bear the unmistakeable stamp of human intentionality, having precisely
angled slopes and terminus points. Apart from the odd piece of Roman tile
or medieval pottery, there have been few dateable indicators of who built
these ditches, or why.

On Friday afternoon, our group discovered a clearly defined posthole, lined
with stones and filled with a striking grey clay unlike any other fill
found yet in our trench. Better yet, one of our excavators discovered a
well-provenanced piece of coarse pottery within the posthole, which should
help us date the feature. The potsherd is of crude manufacture, and would
likely engender only disgust with any self-respecting Roman potter. Yet,
neither does the fragment appear to fit within known prehistoric pottery
typologies for the area. Could the pottery – and hence the posthole
structure with which that sherd was associated – be of Early to Middl...

1 comment | 14th May 2011, 07:35:25 | Posted by Cath Neal | Blog

Thursday 12th May 2011

Group F

So as our intrepid archaeologists ventured over the dull and wind chilled
horizon, there was a sense of trepidation in the air, the blackness of the
sky and the strong breeze left us contemplating the possibilities of rain
and wind and a sense of mystification at once again randomly retrieving
what seems to be the one and only squeaky barrow on site. Another day of
searching and scouring the endless blackness for lost but unparalleled
tanned soil, only to be found buried carelessly at the delights of
Heslington East, another day of Will’s mattocking prowess and excavation
carried out by the boys in a manner more befitting sexual poses and eased
lounging on a sun struck beach than a muddy trench in North Yorkshire. The
weather was, however, not enough to deter our archaeological enthusiasts
and it was, in fact, a rather fruitful day for discoveries. Between Sam and
Declan’s mattocking exploits they found a rather exciting and extensive
proportion of a large Roman pot, some interesting animal bone deposits and
much miscellaneous Roman pottery. A rather unique posthole was located to
the west of the site by Phoebe with a definitive set of stone defining its
structure, ca...

1 comment | 12th May 2011, 21:24:48 | Posted by Cath Neal | Blog

Tuesday 10th May 2011

Yesterday afternoon, the prehistoric urn burial was raised from our trench,
mummified in a protective cocoon of plastic wrap. Transfixed, we watched
with a mixture of giddy wonder, academic interest, and at least for me, the
slightly disquieted feeling that our crew was bearing witness to the very
personal tragedy of a family who had lost a child thousands of years ago.
Moments like that remind me of why I became fascinated with archaeology in
the first place.

This morning, we wondered: are there any more burials nearby? Did the two
cremations we found represent the edge of an urn field, or perhaps the
ploughed out remains of a barrow? To answer these questions, a further area
of topsoil, approximately 3m by 3m, had been stripped away from the
northwest corner of our trench, and we immediately set to trowelling down
the surface to reveal what secrets the ground was keeping from us. Though
we have yet to find any further burials, a number of interesting features
were revealed, and further excavation will hopefully tell us what
relationship these bear to the cremations. Are the features earlier, later
or contemporary with the burials? Are more burials hiding deeper within the

1 comment | 12th May 2011, 21:04:26 | Posted by Cath Neal | Blog

Monday 9th May 2011

Following on from a successful first week of excavation for Group F at Heslington East with finds notably including several pieces of Samian Ware (one of which still contained part of a makers mark) as well as a cache of Roman Hobnails, meant that hopes were high for an equally exciting start to the second full week on the site. Continuing to investigate a mysterious east/west cut containing (an originally named) ‘dark greyish black’ fill, I was tasked with continuing to excavate out this material in order to establish the parameters and extent of the cut before recording it in its entirety. Having spent the last two working days excavating the cut with nothing but a trowel, it was particularly satisfying to finally finish, however this also meant that I had to begin the slightly more lacklustre task of recording the feature. So following on from completing a section of the feature, I began the process of recording it to create a plan. Though not entirely sure of what the cut and fill may turn out to be, current theories have suggested that it may be a possible rubbish pit, possibly associated with the kiln discovered on another area of the site? In other Group F news, addit...

1 comment | 10th May 2011, 04:14:54 | Posted by Cath Neal | Blog